Naughty Dog’s commitment to Nathan Drake’s adventures was a process that has developed in parallel with the accession of fans; driven by strong cinematics and narrative, as well as integrated action between exploration and puzzles. None of this was unheard of when the series walked its first steps, as the inspiration originated from other series such as Tomb Raider and Gears of War. The difference is that Naughty Dog dedicated its time in learning the Playstation 3’s architecture, and it surely paid off. With Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune released in 2007, in what would be the foundation for a more lively and reinforced series, then two years later with Uncharted 2: Among Thieves, it is difficult to think of how Naughty Dog can actually raise the bar even higher with another Uncharted game. The question is: Did they?
The series as established itself as a graphical and interactive component, conjugations that are by themselves sufficient to make any fan of video games fascinated by what they experience on screen. For example, there was a moment we remember with immense satisfaction. It happens in the second game when Nathan arrives at a village in the Himalayas. The incredible sense of elevation in that space is fascinating. Nathan takes a slow pace as a tourist who eventually reaches the high point of the season and feels overwhelmed by the existence of human life in an extreme situation. And while everything seems to develop naturally, the little ones are playing, and among them utter words that you cannot understand. It is the first step that leads us to assess the notion of distance, watching these people work, carved into the mountain with their hardships. It’s the sort of realism that makes for a convincing narrative.
If you haven’t caught on already, Nathan Drake is the protagonist, an explorer/part treasure hunter. He carries with him the genes of the famous explorer Sir Francis Drake and takes on an adventure no matter how dangerous it is. The hardships, of course, come to him by way of the inevitable conflicts. Since there is the knowledge to secret treasures and artifacts, there are invariably secret organizations seeking the same thing. For the player, that's good. Confrontation means action and action leads to gameplay. Setting-wise it will take Nathan to leave the Himalayas, in favor of the Rub'al Kahli brutal desert heat (located on the border with Saudi Arabia, Yémen and even with the UAE in the Arabian Peninsula).
In Drake’s Deception, Nathan Drake and his mentor, Victor Sullivan are up against a new villain, Katherine Marlowe and the organization she leads. Our reluctant hero gets a ring taken from him, a keepsake that once belonged to Sir Francis Drake. This ring actually opens the way to the Atlantis of the Desert, a secular city lost in the desert dunes of Rub’al Kahli. As we play Uncharted 3 for a few hours, we realize that there’s not much of a difference between it and Uncharted 2. However, Uncharted 3 incorporates some new ideas in regard to the dynamics of the scenarios, improvements to the melee and gunplay, and also because of a much larger scale of elements like fire, water, and sand technology.
Despite its well-grounded gameplay, the effects caused by these elements are not always enough to mark the cinematic aspect that tends to follow the narrative. Nathan Drake can’t choose alternative routes because there are none. It is a character who does not develop and that is constantly put at the mercy of events that seem too scripted and doesn’t give the player the fear or dying. Drake is naturally transported to a series of events that inevitably happen, so the experience is roughly similar to its predecessor because that’s how the producers wrote it.
Still, there is undeniable merit to what Naughty Dog has done; a full, engaging narrative divided by more than twenty chapters. It’s sprinkled with plot twists, combining film and an interactive component to excellent results. It is a juggernaut that shows how effective it is in generating a sense of chaos in an overwhelming scale. The events are so interrelated and interspersed with moments that form a fascinating journey.
Some improvements in the combat aspect are worth noting. However, some simplicity is evident in the system structure. The triangle button allows you to avoid enemy attacks while the square and the circle is used to attack and grab opponents. The fights have varying degrees of difficulty and duration, depending on the thug’s size. In some cases it is possible to deliver punches at opponents who are armed with firearms, but there will be other opponents in this category, much stronger and remain completely immune to physical attack, so the only way to defeat them is by another strategy; combination of bullets and grenades.
The environment plays a large role in the action as well. A good example of this dynamic is when Drake and Sully explore the Chateau, a feudal castle in an area covered with leaves and trees. With the building on fire at some point, some wooden walls crumble over time or when you reach a certain point in the level. Players will have to adapt to sudden changes in the environment to survive the outcome. Another example is when Nathan Drake gets thrown in the desert. Sand storms can make things complicated in trying to identify enemies. Your vision gets cloudy, and it’s hard to tell where the shots are coming from, and forces the player to go on the defensive. These segments in the game are nothing short of impressive.
In terms of weaponry, Drake can still carry two guns and four hand grenades, which is enough to keep the action in style. There’s never a scarcity for extra ammunition though, so you’ll likely to get plenty from fallen enemies. Moreover, the walls and obstacles continue to function as safe places, although they are often temporary. There is also a fairly significant improvement to enemy AI. They no longer follow a pattern and work moving through space with some autonomy, sometimes more secure than others. The goal is to get close to Drake, so it’s up to the player to use different strategies to progress.
The nature of the puzzles does not differ widely from the style presented in the previous games. Some require the consultation of the guide that Drake uses, while others require an interaction with objects around the scenario. They do not seem complex though, and you’re more than likely to solve them easily. If you want to remove the advantage of these puzzles is best to disable the tips, but it’s disappointing they still point out some hints regardless.
It is in the graphics and visual dimension that Uncharted 3 shines most. It’s not quite a qualitative leap from Uncharted 2--arguably the high point of the series--from the presentation, character development, and other things. Some facial animations are different; Drake’s face is more labored, his face is deeper. Sullivan does not show large differences and Chloe and Elena continue to impress. In any case the locations of the game continue to demonstrate a high degree of fantastic detail. The backgrounds are punctuated by great color, and the transition between dark and light is remarkable to say the least. The description of the sites shows a remarkable work around the house made by Naughty Dog to make a very credible and a more realistic gaming environment possible.
The game’s cinematic aspirations also carry over to its competitive multiplayer. The Chateau and Airstrip levels are built to allow different phases with dynamic structures in what is an approximation of what can be seen in the campaign. Among the new game modes, besides the traditional Deathmatch, we have Three Team Deathmatch, which is a variant of the previous game mode and consists of three teams of two players each competing against each other. The other modes are the Free-for-All, in which each player moves on the map against other players.
During online play, you can find collectibles and various challenges, all working to increase the currency to acquire new characters, equipment, perks, and skins. Uncharted 3 also has a buddy system, which is an ideal way for friends to get together and share each other's successes via Facebook integration. They can even donate their treasures to friends or join matches in order to help them rack up points. Uncharted 3 also offers cooperative mode, both online and offline. Hunter and Arena modes translate as a representation of what we saw in Uncharted 2 (horde mode), and can be played up to three players in one session.
With Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception, Naughty Dog returns to deliver an adventure that touches the quality standards already achieved in Uncharted 2. It returns to enhance the quality of cinematic storytelling, making a guiding element of realism to the entire experience. Sure, there’s no significant change to the formula, but it is still a superb experience.
Marco Cecilio, NoobFeed